No had the capability to put her curly hair under
control. Her hair was swinging like flowers over
the eyes, ears and nose. When Granny came home
she used to get jada oil along with other tidbits.
She sat on the rope stool and put the sticky jada
oil and combed my hair with the comb made from
horn. I felt I would die from pain. But granny
would pat my back and repeat the saying- ‘the
fur of the sheep and the oil from jada ’.
She had seen one or two sheep amidst the herd
of goats in pathansahi. They are not like the
sheep found in Australia or in the Himalayas.
They are the sheep from the coastal regions of
Orissa. The one and half inch knotted fur looked
real ugly on the dirty yellowish colour of the
sheep. She felt sad thinking of her hair; because
she could understand the meaning of her Granny’s
words. Of course the hair got stuck together with
the jada oil.
In the class our teacher told us that we must
have heard stories about Dhruv, Prahalad and Shravan
kumar. This was not true in my case. First of
all, Granny never told old stories. Secondly not
while I was going to sleep but while she sat down
to comb my hair she sometimes told me some amazing
stories, which made a mark in my innocent mind.
Two of the stories I have never been able to forget.
The first one was like this:
Some marhattas from the city came and plundered
the whole place entering every house stealing
and raping. Granny remained silent for a while.
After a few seconds she would start; I was in
the backyard; someone shouted- the marhattas are
coming towards the village. Within few seconds
the whole village was deserted. Everyone fled
up to whatever place and hill they found. The
cattle were still bound to their sheds. Rice and
paddy, dal such as moong and black dal, money,-
everything was left unattended. Even the seventy
old Naliamma climbed up the mountain with a stick.
The only person who could not go was the daughter-in-law
of the gudiya household. How could she go? She
had completed nine months. As soon as she heard
about the marhatta invasion her pain started.
Her parents-in-law, her husband and his brothers
and sisters all left her to save their lives.
No one cared for anyone or bothered to listen
to anyone at that time. She had no time to cry;
the child inside her was restless. She said: “Go
why should you all give your life for me? When
the marhattas come they will be satisfied with
me”. In spite of saying such words, she
gave birth to the child when she heard the tapping
of the horses at the end of the village. Tears
were dripping down. Pregnant for the first time
she cut the chord with a shell. As she wiped the
child and put him in her lap and was trying to
sleep hordes of soldiers rushed into the village.
The whole village was deserted. They banged the
dishes in some houses and they puuled the thatch
from others. Within a few seconds they were all
around the daughter-in-law of the gudiya household.
Eight to ten heavily built young men. They asked
her- “Tell us where everyone is gone?”
She was not able to utter a single word. Her whole
body was shivering. She looked at them with wide
open eyes. The leader of the group said- “What
are staring at? Put the fire on; we are hungry.
Put oil in pan. Fry the baby in your lap and feed
The daughter-in-law of the gudiya household had
just given birth to a son. She had not even held
the child for a few hours. The child hadn’t
taken to the mother’s breast yet. How the
mother’s heart must be beating? She had
lot of patience and lot of strength. She said
– “If you want to eat the child sit
quietly”. She held the child in her lap
and started the fire. Soon the oil was hot. She
stood up and with a ladle in her hand started
spooning the hot oil from the pan onto the face
of the soldiers. The soldiers fled the place screaming
for their life. Granny used to say this happened
when she was young.Had Parijat been a little older
she could have understood that this incident was
never possible because the atrocities of the marhattas
occurred before granny’s birth. She did
not have any clear idea about the marhattas then.
She imagined that they must be like elephants,
horses, tigers, lions or perhaps demons. Why else
would they ask for human meat?
She could not disbelieve this story of Granny
but the other story made her very sad. Her mind
was full of disgust. As her granny combed her
hair with the sticky oil she would massage her
back and say this back is my golden back this
back has got a son. After her birth the much desired
son had been born in this family so her Granny
thought her back is the golden back. She also
used to narrate a short story about this. After
praying for a son to various gods and goddesses
when my mother had lost all her hope of getting
a son my Granny heard of a tested formula for
begetting a son and applied it on my mother. Once
she picked up the worms from Parijat’s stool
and hid it in a banana and gave it to my mother
to eat. In the course of events my mother gave
birth to the much awaited son and Parijat got
a brother. The day she heard this story from Granny
her mind was full of disgust. She did not want
to sit with Granny to get her hair combed. She
looked at Granny with a sense of disbelief. She
felt her mother was betrayed. She really felt
pity for her mother.
Two eyes wet with tears had haunted her since
childhood. At dusk when the dirty bulbs emblaze
she remembers those eyes. Then slowly the lady
adorning a white saree with a white blouse aged
almost over forty years appears in front of her.
The lady’s voice disturbs her senses. The
voice of the lady is so deep that it sounds as
if it was drowned in deep water. She was very
desperately saying- “Please give me something,
oh mother of Rina, my children have been starving
they have not had a morsel since morning”.
She had a cloth bag in her hand. Her pleadings
never reached my mother’s ears. The lady
would sit on the ground and wipe her tears. After
a while my mother would twitch her nose in disgust
and say- “How can I give you everyday? You
come over every evening begging. What do you think?
No one has any work but to listen to you?”
The lady never got up or left. In rage my mother
would bang the utensils or throw the broom she
held. She used to leave the place thumping her
feet without giving anything to the lady. She
would roam across the house and come back to the
lady and say- “Are you still there? Didn’t
I say, there is no rice in the house? Where will
I get rice?”
“Please give please, please give, oh mother
of Rani; my children will die from hunger”.
She would hold my mother’s hand and plead.
Still my mother never gave in. Parijat could not
accept her mother as her own. She wished she could
go and get two to three cups of rice from the
drum of rice and give to the lady, who was Sabita’s
mother. She did not have the opportunity to know
whether Sabita’s family was poor. Both Sabita’s
mother and her aunt were widows. They looked more
aristocratic than her mother because they were
from the karan caste and always wore white saree
with white blouse. The sight of their pleadings
for rice before my mother was really pathetic.
She felt her mother should give rice to the lady.
They had bags and bags full of rice. They would
not be short of rice if she gave a maan or two
of rice. Every year one-fourth of the rice in
the bags went into the holes of rats’. Pots
and pots of cooked and leftover rice went into
the cattle’s feed everyday. When she thought
how the lack of a pot of rice can bring tears
to a human she used to ask her mother- “Why
don’t you give a maan of rice to Sabita’s
mother? I did not like her mother leaving our
house wiping her tears.”
My mother amazed me shouting out suddenly with
her cracking voice- “What for? Is everything
free here? I have five members in my own family.
I am hoarding rice because I cannot boil paddy
to make rice during the monsoon seasons. Why should
I give to any Tom, Dick and Harry?”
It’s not that my mother did not give anything
to anyone. The man named Giriya from the backward
caste (paan) came over to beg for rice twice every
week. As soon as he called at the gate my mother
would send the bowl of rice with us, “Go,
fast make sure he leaves this place as soon as
possible” His eyes used to blaze like fire
but his body looked as if the huge figure has
lost its lustre with age. When I put rice into
his bag he asked about everything- about my mother,
my father, whether we are getting adequate sleep
because our house was in the town and there were
too many vehicles on the road. My mother never
used to come out of the house. She used to say
from inside-“Uncle, please leave now; why
are you gossiping so much?”
Giriya paan would then get up lifting his long
bamboo pole. As soon as I went inside the house
my mother would ask me – “What was
Giriya paan asking?”
“Nothing in particular; he was asking about
you and father and stuff.”
My mother would get scared and ask- “Did
you tell him that your father is not at home for
the last two days?”
My mother was really scared of Giriya paan. She
had the belief that Giriya paan is coming under
the pretense of begging alms and noticing all
the nooks and corners of our house. He knows where
the gold, silver and money are kept; and when
he gets an opportunity he would come and steal
Giriya paan was from Parijat’s maternal
uncle’s village. That’s why her mother
used to address him as uncle. There was no fondness
in that ‘uncle’ address; rather there
was a sense of fear and persuasion- “Uncle,
look I am your niece, we are born in the same
village; you spare my family from your evil intentions.”
Parijat was amused. How can a beggar be a dacoit?
If he was a thief why would he beg alms at every
door? When she said this her mother narrated the
story which sounded like a crime story. In his
youth Giriya paan was a very ferocious dacoit.
His terror was felt not only in his village but
spread to the villages in the neighbourhood. Those
were the days when kings ruled over the place.
Kings competed with each other over both good
and bad deeds. Once the king invited Giriya paan
to the fort. Being a dacoit Giriya was scared
to heed to the king’s invitation and tried
to hide. So the king sent messengers with gifts
and presents to Giriya’s place. Giriya was
amazed. He went over to the king and pleaded-
“Please forgive me”. The white sahibs
were frequent visitors to the king’s palace.
The king took Giriya inside and said- “Look
Giriya, if you are a true son of a paan, then
show your capability”. Giriya was restless.
He could not imagine what the king wanted him
to do. The king said- “If you can go to
the fort of Madhupur and get the clothes from
the queen’s bathroom, then you will be considered
the son of a brave man. You will be known as a
true dacoit.” Giriya boasted – “Is
True to his words, Giriya entered through the
drains into the bathroom of the queen of Madhupur
and with all cleverness got the queen’s
clothes from her bathroom safely tucked inside
a bamboo pole. He is aware of everything that
is happening. He keeps his eyes and ears open
Even in that young age Parijat had the intelligence
to point to her mother – “You give
Giriya rice because you are scared of him; when
it is Giriya you forget about finishing rice during
the monsoon season but when it comes to giving
rice to Sabita’s mother you are always short
of rice. You are not a good person. My mother
screamed out in her cracking voice- “What
did you say?” Afraid of being hit by her
mother Parijat ran out of the house and sat on
the bench placed at the road-side stall. Her mind
was revolting; her mind was full of hatred. Who
was she revolting against? Why was the hatred?
Drops of blood fell into the toilet pan. The
red blood on the white pan was creating amazing
colours of dawn. The sight brought back that popular
story to Parijat. The queen was absent mindedly
making embroidery in the handerkerchief. The queen
was unhappy because she did not have any children.
The king was gradually getting old. She was so
upset about not having any children that the thought
of it made drops of tear fall down her eyes. Not
only did the tears drip down but she pricked her
finger with the needle due to her absent mindedness.
She squeezed her finger with an ‘ooh’
sound. A red spot of blood shone on her finger
tip. Slowly she let the drop of blood fall outside
the window. It was winter; the whole palace was
covered with snow which appeared just like soft
cotton wool. The drop of blood fell from the finger
tip. As soon as it touched the snow a wonderful
colour emerged from the combination of red and
milky white colour. The queen thought –
I wish I had a daughter whose skin colour was
like this. Just at that time a very kind angel
was flying by. She flew down and said to the queen-
“I am aware of your desire. You can have
a daughter with the skin of this colour; but as
soon as you give birth to the daughter you will
be dead. Do you agree to this condition?”
The queen was delighted. The beautiful girl will
roam around in the palace like a small butterfly.
What can be happier than having a beautiful daughter
in exchange for a single life?
At one time such a beautiful girl had come to
this earth in exchange for a life.
Unlike the queen Parijat was not enchanted to
see the blood drops on the pan; she was not disturbed
either. For some months now she was discharging
blood. It had become a normal practice with her.
She started avoiding the toilet because of this.
Once Aravind told her, enough is enough; you must
go and see a doctor. It is not right to let any
illness last long for any reason. Aravind was
so influenced with an article written in the newspaper
by a doctor that he landed up at the doctor’s
door with Parijat.
The doctor could write very complicated theories
in simple words which could be easily understood
by the layman. He proved with arguments that every
illness was half physical and half mental. Adding
these to his qualification, they arrived at his
house in the afternoon. The doctor was taking
rest at that time. That day the doctor had already
finished his schedule to meet patients. Aravind
said- there is no time limit for doctors. I have
bunked office today. It won’t be possible
to bunk office again tomorrow.
Aravind pressed the calling bell. After a while
the doctor himself came out of the door. A huge
middle-aged man. As he looked with a questioning
glance and before he could ask anything Aravind
said- “Are you Doctor X?”
“She is my wife”. Then he described
about her illness from beginning to end. They
went inside and occupied two chairs.
“What did you say? Pain in the under abdomen?
Pain in the back? Blood all over the pan? Alright.
Let me check”.
Aravind was told to sit while Parijat went inside.
The doctor lighted the room by turning on the
light. Parijat lied down on the inspection table
after climbing over the two-stepped ladder.
“Yes, a little towards the top; don’t
sleep; kneel down”.
She knelt down.
“No not like that; on your kneels like
a four- footed animal”.
This time she went down on her kneels like a
four-footed animal. Doctor X started checking.
Her muscles started stiffening out. Afterwards
she thought- she is a patient which means she
is an object of research. The patient’s
caste, religion, sex and age does not matter,
neither does the doctor have any caste, religion,
sex, or age. Doctor X moved his hand towards the
switchboard and the light above the inspection
table was turned off. Parijat’s sixth sense
informed her Doctor X is not God. He is also slave
to the senses of eyes, ears and nose. His hunger
and thirst is immense. There is no element of
discretion in his choice just like a wayward cow.
She stood up before any unpleasant incident occurred
and walked towards the room where Aravind was
sitting and pushed open the slightly closed door
Aravind asked her- “Did the doctor check
you?” The doctor turned on all the lights
of the room and opened the door wide as he sat
down at his table. Aravind had no choice but to
ask the doctor about Parijat’s health.
The Doctor replied: “The patient is very
sensitive. Aravind smiled and said: “She
is a woman - that’s why”.
Doctor replied with disgust from a blown up nose:
“Yes, woman or something else”.
Aravind was surprised and looked at Doctor X.
The stomach with six inches of fat; the dyed hair
smeared with oil, the clean and clear feminine
cheeks- prompted the word – “Disgusting”.
She stuffed her mouth with the end of saree and
grew impatient to leave the place.
As it is the children turn into caterpillars
during that time. There is no question of choice
or preference. No mention about hunger or the
absence of it. They can eat everything. As soon
as the bus stops they get down with their water
bottles and go straight into the restaurant. After
washing their hands in the wash basin, they occupy
a table and order food. Both she and Aravind sit
as nonentities. They order food according to their
choice. They get different kinds of food such
as chicken, naan, matar paneer. The restaurant
is inside the bus stand- a real place for fast
food. A dusky boy with a dirty dress pours water
onto the greasy steal glasses from a dirty plastic
jug and puts them on the table. The water bottles
brought from home lies beside the children. They
drink the water of the restaurant with pleasure.
Drops of sweat accumulate on the tips of their
noses. The noses start running. They eat with
utmost contentment. They keep on eating even if
they are full and not in a condition to eat anymore.
At last, they get out of the restaurant with handful
of paanmahuri; no sooner had they taken a round
or two of the bus stand they insist on buying
cold drinks. By that time there is no space left
in their stomach; they take a sip or two from
the bottle and leave the rest in the shop. After
that they want to eat into the magazines standing
in the bookshop. As they return from the book
store with all kinds of magazines starting from
movies to sports, the chocolate and toffee displayed
in the plastic jars attracts them. They never
forget to buy a few toffees. Every time the same
routine is followed. Whenever the children go
to the village they become like caterpillars.
The doors of the bus don’t open even after
all the demands of the children are met. The bus
keeps on standing like a dumb king. The driver,
cleaner and the conductor of the bus let every
passenger get down from the bus one by one and
then they lock the bus and disappear. Eating and
drinking comes to end. Going to the toilet is
over. Roaming around also comes to a stop. Still
the door of the bus does not open. The passengers
roam around the bus like flies because there is
no place to sit. Legs start hurting. The body
starts paining still the bus stands still like
On that occasion all the mischief of the children
had come to an end. Eating, drinking buying magazines
– nothing was left. They were roaming around
like flies as an old man appeared. I don’t
remember who the old man turned to first. I don’t
remember who among them nodded his head and said-“No”.
The old man did not leave their side. Aravind
moved slightly and everyone followed; even the
old man. Aravind said in a loud voice- “Go
from here”. The old man did not go.
The son said – “Papa, please give
Aravind did not put his hand into his pocket.
Parijat did not open the chain of her purse. The
old man’s thin hand kept on pointing towards
them like a stubborn child as if it would create
a hole in their world comprising of four lives.
Aravind was irritated: “Can’t you
hear? I told you go from here. Get lost”.
Aravind moved further ahead. Everyone followed
him; even the old man. The old man appeared very
sick. His hair was curly and looked like jute.
The legs were black and the blood vessels were
protruding. The eyes looked as if they belonged
to a dead fish. His feet were hard like the cow’s
hoof. The son said – “Please give
The pleadings of the son may have given some
incentive to the old man he went on nagging- “Babu,
please give me, please give me” and touched
At that moment Aravind screamed- “Get lost
from here, you scoundrel” and lifted his
leg as if he wanted to kick the old man afar like
a football. Instead of being afraid of the ferocious
look of Aravind everyone was full of shame as
if the all the people present in the bus stand
had come to know of his meanness. First the son
slipped away to a distance. The daughter followed
him. The old who was in the verge of crying said
– “Want to hit me? Alright, hit me,
Aravind was not repenting for his action. Parijat
wanted to leave that place. The vice of the criminal
Ratnakar is his own. “Disgusting”
came out from her mouth.
Aravind asked her with concern- “What happened?”
Parijat did not answer. The look on her eyes expressed
After science has solved every mystery as simple
child’ play questions remain as to why do
the raindrops drizzle from the sky? Why do the
waves beat every moment? Why do countless sperms
run down through dark alleys? She kept on pondering.
Why do living beings die? Why does the sun rise?
Why do desires control your life like grass even
after they are rooted out? Does God never tire
out? Why does the wind ever rest? Why does the
mother never forget the loss of her son till her
Sometimes these things happen. When she sits
alone she gets drowned in fog? Does not know if
it is cloud or fog? Everything looks hazy. At
a distance a blue safari is seen. She forwards
her hand. Her hand swims in the clod/fog.
She can’t touch the blue safari suit. Gradually
she notices the man who has put on the blue safari
suit. She recognizes Aravind. Just like a drowning
person holds onto a straw she wants to cling to
Aravind. Two drops of tear has already gone into
her ears. The hand that swims in emptiness clutches
onto Aravind. She wipes her tears and asks: “What
happened? Are you in severe pain?”
Two other people are standing next to the bed.
Aravind asks : “Have you got back your senses?”
By that time she had comeback from the world of
cloud and fog. She is able to understand that
she is lying in one of the beds of the nursing
home. On the bed nearby a girl was sleeping. The
girl must be fourteen or fifteen years old and
had put on a frock. She had a saline on her. Aravind
asks the man next to him: “What has happened
to the girl?” The woman sitting next to
the feet of the girl starts crying aloud. Both
Aravind and Parijat are shocked to hear the cry.
Aravind tries to maintain decency and does not
ask anything else. The matter does not end there.
Aravind collects information about the girl from
somewhere. He bends down to Parijat’s ears
and says – “The girl was pregnant
at just fourteen years of age. One of her distant
maternal uncle made her pregnant. The father had
threatened to slay. In the process of aborting
the pregnancy from native herbs the child had
died and rotten inside. After the girl became
seriously ill they brought her here. It has been
three days since and the girl has been discharging
pieces of rotten flesh.”
Parijat closed her eyes out of fear. She could
feel pain in her stomach and wanted to vomit.
She got up from the bed for two to three times
intending to vomit.
Aravind moved his glance from the girl and set
his eyes on Parijat. He patted her back. He moved
his fingers on her hair and worriedly ran to the
doctor. Tears from Parijat eyes had entered into
her ears. A nurse came and asked her if she was
suffering from any pain. Aravind came back with
some capsules for alleviating the pain in her
stomach. She was supposed to remain in that bed
for only two hours. Time flew in the fog, with
the pain in her stomach and the curiousity about
Before leaving the nursing home she wanted to
go to the toilet. When Aravind wanted to hold
her hand and take her to the toilet she said-
“I am alright. I am feeling well now. I
can walk on my own. You wait.” Aravind left
her hand and waited for her outside.
As she came out of the toilet her gaze went
onto the basin of the commode. On a white tray
there lay soaked in blood, a fetus four to five
inch in length. It was sleeping like a godchild.
Eyes, ears, nose, legs, hands not even sex was
clear. Even then it looked as if it had just come
out of an egg. The fetus was silent like a sage.
Don’t know why, but her heart started to
burn in pain as she saw the fetus. She wanted
to lift it from the tray and clasp it to her heart.
She did not want to leave it on that tray and
go home. Someone was knocking on the door of the
toilet from outside. As she opened the door of
the toilet and came out she came across Rukmani,
the old maid of the nursing home. She told her,
“Babu sent me to check fearing that you
have fallen down in the toilet”. Then she
changed the context and said- “Disgusting.
What are you doing? Get an operation done soon.”
After she heard the old lady’s advice uttered
in an irritating tone like a superior, Parijat
did not have the courage to ask- “This godchild
lying on the tray, is that my creation”.
Parijat left the place before she could hold
the godchild next to her heart and address it
as “my dear’. She left without asking
for forgiveness with her head down. She started
hating herself for this unforgivable sin of her
life. She condemned herself- “Disgusting,
what are you doing?”
Green under the nose, eyes bright and nose sharp
– this was how her appearance was when her
son moved away from her and said- “Disgusting,
you smell awful”.
“I smell?” Parijat smiled. “Good
“Disgusting, go from here”, said
her son. She looked at her son and realized that
he was not joking. But why did she smell so bad?
It was winter. So there is no question of sweat.
As it is she does not sweat much even during summer.
Till today she was under the impression that even
her sweat did not smell that much. According to
Aravind a sweet smell emanates from her body.
Aravind is often enchanted with her sweet smell
no matter whether she is awakened from her sleep
or just come out of the kitchen. Parijat has often
tried to smell herself but has failed to find
the sweet smell.
Her son’s complaints were gradually increasing.
Finally it so happened that when he saw Parijat
approaching he would slip away to a safe distance.
Parijat started putting powder; she started using
perfume but still her son never came near her.
She started feeling sad about it. This led to
frustration and subsequently to fights. How everything
changes. She could not fathom. From then on when
she saw her son she would squeeze herself and
stand in a corner. On the dining table she avoided
sitting next to her son and sat on a chair away
from him. More she constricted more she felt angry
and sad. She would cry and tell him: “You
are a part of my body; you have been made from
my bones and blood. Look your nose is exactly
like mine. Your smile is like mine too. We are
similar. I feel sad when you despise me. You will
never understand how disturbed I feel when I come
in front of you”.
Her son would soften his tone seeing her tears
and say: “Please don’t cry. Please
don’t feel sad.” But he could not
change his attitude. He kept on maintaining the
distance as usual. Aravind used to say –
“This is a new drama”. “Let
me see” he would say and like a dog sniffs
around he would make a sound and smell my whole
body and say-“Where is the smell?”
Parijat thought Aravind would say- “There
is a sweet smell coming out of your body”.
But he did not say that. She used to feel sad
but she came to realize that her body no longer
smelt nice. Does the bad smell mean old age? Her
grandfather used to smell funny. She could not
describe how it was like. Yet it was just like
an old thing. The same smell comes out when you
enter the Kedargauri temple.
Grandpa’s body was getting old. Grandpa
used to walk four kilometers to come to our house.
His toes used to look red and swollen just like
the nerves in his legs. He was unlike the grandpa
in storybooks. He never used to tell us stories.
Far from telling stories he never even spoke to
anyone. His eyes looked starchy and innocent.
He was so thin then when he sat his skeleton would
bend and looked just like the English letter ‘G’.
Almost every time he came to Parijat’s house
she would be getting ready to leave for school.
Her mother would be busy in household chores.
Without making any sound Grandpa would sit in
their drawing room after taking out the slippers
made by the cobbler from tyres. They were neither
happy nor sad when Grandpa visited them. Only
they used to scream so that their mother could
hear that Grandpa was there. Her mother never
left her work and ran to meet him. Grandpa used
to sit and read whatever he laid his hand on be
it newspaper or paper bags. He could read the
small English letters in the newspaper even without
glasses. As Parijat braided her hair she would
go and put the kettle of morning tea on the fire
of the mud oven. As she finished braiding her
hair on both sides the tea used to get hot. Grandpa
would be reading the paper bags without uttering
a single word. Parijat would go and place a cup
of black tea in front of Grandpa without uttering
a single word. Grandpa would gulp the bitter tea
without making a face. Since it was not yet time
to leave for school Parijat would to go her mother
and say- “Maa , Grandpa is here.”
“Let him be there”- her mother used
to retort back without any interest.
Parijat used to get angry with her mother and
say – “Why are you answering like
that? Your father is here.”
My mother used to mutter angrily – “If
he runs to my house time and again because he
wants to take his pills, where will I get money
to give him?”
Parijat would get irritated with her mother and
say – “Talk softly. He can hear you”.
My mother would suddenly scream and say –
“Why are you showing off? Go and fetch the
two rupee- note tied to a corner of my wet saree
drying on the rooftop and give him”.
It would be time for Parijat’s school.
She would run to the roof top with heavy steps.
She would get the two-rupee-note tied to a corner
of her mother’s wet saree and give it to
Grandpa. Grandpa would not say a word. He would
put the money into his pocket. He would sit for
a while. He would leave putting on his slippers
made from tyres. Parijat would feel like revolting
against her mother. Her mother would appear heartless.
But she could do nothing. She would leave for
school, resting her books to her chest.
In a similar way her son did not like many things
about her - her rounded and healthy arms; her
way of giving opinions on everything like a wise
person; her habit of murmuring songs to herself
in the bathroom and kitchen. Parijat could not
please her son by putting on an ordinary saree;
she could not feed on stale food; neither could
she pretend to be an innocent woman from the village.
He preferred a mother like Yasoda to Jijabai.
My mother used to say that Grandpa was an irresponsible
father. He has not done anything in his life.
He was involved in the fight for freedom of the
country. Grandma used to do everything right from
looking after the lands and the men working in
the lands to collecting rents from the tenants.
The country became free. Grandpa did not do anything;
neither service nor business. Neither did he look
after his lands nor did he take part in politics.
He spent his time drinking. He used to ask Grandma
for the money received from rents and blow them
away in drinking. Even though he used to drink
he was never ill-mannered. He would drink and
come back and sit with Grandma in the kitchen.
Even the members of the extended family sharing
the same courtyard never used to know when Grandpa
came into the house or when he left. Gradually
as Grandma was not able to move she could not
look after the field or manage the labourers working
in the fields. She could not collect rents from
the tenants and all the houses in the town had
to be locked. Grandpa took to opium and gave up
drinking. Grandma died. Grandpa did not even have
money for opium.
Parijat was not aware when Grandpa had started
asking for money from her mother. But whenever
he came to their house both Parijat and her mother
could understand that he needed money. As soon
as she saw Grandpa her mother would start getting
irritated. Was Grandpa as worthless to her mother
as she was to her son?
Parijat was getting pulled without being aware
– just like a dry piece of wood being washed
away by the force of wave or may be like a flower
falling off from the tree. She was thinking about
right and wrong, vice and virtue. How and under
what circumstances under what pretense, and whether
it was auspicious day or a dreadful one, she could
not fathom how it all happened. She was swimming
further and further away from her place of origin.
When she was in the middle of the river she realized
she has a family, she has children, she has dreams,
and she has happiness as well as miseries. How
can she give up her world at this time?
She was against her world without realizing it.
Parijat was absentminded. When her son came back
with a bruise on his knee with an accident on
the bicycles she did not say – ‘oh’
out of pity; neither was she perturbed nor did
she run hither thither. As if this accident had
a place in the list of events that details the
good and bad things of life. Aravind came back
from office with a fight with his boss. She did
not go to him to offer any consolation. She did
not give a long lecture on the importance of mother
tongue and mother land when her daughter failed
in her literature exam. She was thinking of something
and getting excited. She wet her eyes out of frustration.
She had something which was her very own, very
secretive which no one else could get any trace
of. She felt she was getting younger. She loved
watching herself in the mirror.
She said “There is no difference at all
between love and spirituality. Both of these things
make you disenchanted towards the world. Both
these things rest on intense madness. The desire
to become one is prevalent in both these things.
The road leading to both these things are crooked
and never straight. Both these things embody similar
entities and experiences”. Aravind used
to laugh at her words and say “Are you in
love? Are you contemplating the idea of doing
a research on ‘love and spirituality’?
Is your limits only till love or are you up to
any action? You may become the second Ose, who
Parijat did not give any response to Aravind.
But Aravind did not keep quiet. Once he said-
“Your cheeks are looking pink these days”.
Parijat replied - “What rubbish! At this
age, the skin dries and starts shrinking”.
Aravind would say – “How amazing,
you don’t have your irritating habits any
more. Surely something has happened…….”
Parijat used to get scared. Is Aravind suspecting
anything? But why? Parijat is spinning around
like a top for his family. She looks after everyone.
She does not even have a moment for herself. When
she used to analyze all these things she felt
that this secret liaison was even more meaningful
and valuable. She wanted to treasure this relationship
Once Aravind appeared very sweet. He touched
her everywhere lovingly. Parijat looked at him
with surprise. As he talked about many things
that had happened between them he said –
“Don’t think that I don’t trust
you or don’t feel bad that I am asking you
this. Everything is possible in this life. Can
anyone control accidents? We have become dependent
on each other after living together in a family
for such a long time. Is it possible for anyone
to leave? So even if something has happened never
ever contemplate the idea that we will leave each
other. I am only curious to know- Do you have
anyone other than me ……….. I
mean with someone?”
It would have been different, had Aravind asked
me straight instead of all these words. As Aravind
was trying to show that he was a gentleman, she
was wondering whether it was right to tell him
the truth. At this moment the door bell rang and
Parijat left the place to open the door just like
it happens in the climax of a drama. The neighbour
had come and was sitting in the drawing room.
The children had started arriving one after the
other. That day that incident ended with that.
The love of that day was not there the next day.
Aravind changed his countenance to gather information
just like loving a small child at one moment and
slapping him in the next. The stored suspicion
inside him took the shape of irritation; they
started fighting over trivial things. Parijat
tried to make her presence as insignificant as
possible. As if she had become an untouchable
and despicable prostitute. Sometimes she thought
she would tell him everything. But she could not
understand how to say, where to start from. Should
she say that as soon as night falls, her mind
gets excited, she gets perturbed. After everyone
goes to bed, he comes in the depth of the night
with soft footsteps. The smell of his body enchanted
Parijat. The whole house starts smelling. He comes
and stands near him. He kneels down near her bed
and caresses her lips. As if drunk Parijat lends
her face, hand, and feet and then submits herself
completely to him. She would expand herself in
a loving way. The beat of the wall clock reverberates
to her rhythm. Her mind and body goes from a state
of sheer pleasure to one that of intense pleasure.
She had not experienced such pleasure in all her
long married life. She feels as if her life would
have been worthless without him. Before he leaves
she clasps her lips to his pushing her tongue
inside. She sucks in the thin lips. Night gives
in to dawn in such pursuits.
Sometimes her mind gets disturbed even before
it starts getting dark. She feels maybe he would
not come that day. And as thinks that he will
not come, tears start welling up in his eyes.
She remembers the incidents of the night before
and her navel starts wheel-winding.
But will Aravind have the patience to listen
to all this? A few days passed as Parijat was
pondering over whether she should let Aravind
know these things. All of a sudden one day she
felt that there is no need to hide, she should
tell him. At least she will get some reprieve
from the tension. Aravind laughed as he listened
to everything. The next moment he was serious
and said – “Psychic!”
They used to say the same thing about Rina Mahanty
when they were in college. Rina lived as her room-mate
in room number twenty three in the ladies hostel.
She was not like Parijat or her friends. She used
to remain quiet and serious all the time. She
used to spread white sheet on her bed. On that
clean bed she would keep a one and half feet statue
of lord Krishna lying on his three-dimensional
leaning posture. She never sat on the table while
studying. She always studied on the bed. At night
she would sleep next to the statue of Krishna.
She never used to say anything about her relationship
with Krishna. The girls used to address her as
Meera behind her. The girls from the other room
used to ask Parijat, “Please tell us, does
she really sleep with the statue of Krishna?”
She never went to the dining hall to take her
meals. She would spread a sheet of plastic on
the bed and eat as if she and her Krishna were
eating together. Rina’s love for the lifeless
statue gave her pleasure and it surprised her
as well. This love affair with a lifeless statue
was ridiculous after watching the lively couples
in front of the ladies hostel. Rina had only shared
a few secrets with her during the two year long
stay with her in the hostel. One of them was that
she would never get married. She had got everything
that one gets from marriage. She cannot see any
reason to get married.
She used to think Rina was psychic. Other girls
thought she was half-mad. Just like after listening
to everything Aravind announced that she was psychic.
She did not know what Aravind thought of her but
he wanted to know more and more about her lover.
Every morning as he got up from the bed he would
ask – “What all happened last night?”
Generally he did not come every night. So, often
Parijat would reply - “No, he did not come
last night”. He used to ask things like
– “How does her lover look like? What
do they talk? What things does he prefer?”
Apart from Aravind there is another man in Parijat’s
life. They accept this new relationship as a very
natural arrangement. Nothing unusual happens.
On the contrary, Aravind gets incarnated as the
lover and Parijat gets excited to accept the new
Aravind as the lover.
When everything appeared normal, Aravind’s
satirical remarks, or may be the soft words between
them or maybe from the youth-like agility of Parijat,
her daughter sensed the presence of someone else
in their family of four. She was always vigilant
to know about him. When the postman delivered
letters, she would examine the address to check
if the handwriting belonged to any man. When the
phone rang she would secretly pick up the parallel
receiver and try to listen to the conversation.
In spite of everything she could not find out
who the fifth person was, who breathes in the
house and who has the right to enter freely to
her parents’ bedroom.
One day Parijat noticed that there was water in
her moisturizer. Some one had squeezed the face
pack tube; the lipstick had been smudged and spoilt.
One by one all such incidents occurred. She did
not find her pearl necklace after looking everywhere.
She noticed that someone had cut a big piece from
pure silk saree. She was upset and cried; but
still could not find the culprit. She did not
understand why but she had the strong belief that
her daughter was behind these actions. The reason
behind this belief was her daughter’s behaviour.
Her daughter’s attitude towards her was
slowly changing. She had blunt answers for everything.
She defied every instruction. She would knowingly
do things that Parijat did not approve. She would
get irritated for no rhyme or reason. This made
her realize that her daughter was angry with her.
She had already used improper words on more than
one occasion. She told her “You think I
don’t know anything. Do you realize, I know
everything about you?” Parijat used to get
scared at her words. There are many secrets in
a human being’s life; things that cannot
be shared with anyone; that has to remain secret
till death. Those secrets get buried or get burnt
with the body after death. What secret does her
daughter know? Parijat feels a little subdued.
One day her daughter told her –“there
is a big black circle around your eyes; you look
like a ghost”. Maybe she wanted to hurt
her or she said that maybe for some reason. After
saying the words she satirically laughed at her.
Parijat could not forget her daughter’s
laughter. Her attention kept on going towards
the mirror continuously to look at the black circle
around her eyes. Her daughter watched her very
carefully and realized that Parijat was pained
with her remarks about her face. So maybe to further
irritate her or may be to hurt her she said, “Your
skin is loose and you look like an old woman.
Really, how dark you have become.” Once
she picked up a white hair from her hair and flaunted
it in front of her eyes and laughed.
She was breaking into pieces at these words of
her daughter even though there was no exaggeration
in her words. Sometime as if she wanted to take
refuse Parijat would say- “Yes my dear,
I have become old.” Even then her daughter’s
anger would not subside. But why was she angry?
What was her fault?
One day she asked her daughter – “Please
speak out whatever complaints you have against
me, just say them openly. I cannot tolerate your
behaviour anymore. But remember, my life is mine
and your life belongs to you alone. I will not
interfere in your life neither will you in mine”.
Her daughter remained serious for a while. Then
she said, “Disgusting”. Parijat asked:
“What is the reason behind your hatred?”
Her daughter replied angrily – “I
am telling you, don’t irritate.”
(Translated by: Gopa Naik)